In which I explain how Espresso Pundit does not know what the Ad Hominem fallacy is

Crossposted from DemocraticDiva.com

Arizona Board of Regents member Greg Patterson, aka the Espresso Pundit, has come at me with what pedantic mansplainers everywhere consider to be the most potent weapon they have in their arsenal. In other words, Patterson is accusing me of committing a logical fallacy. Sexist pedants love to trot out the List of Logical Fallacies to slay the arguments of women who disagree with them because ladies are so emotional and illogical amirite? However, since these pedants so often mistake their own opinions for objective fact, their attempts to characterize things as logical fallacies tend to go comically awry, as we see here:

Here’s an example of actual Ad Hominem. In which Braham Resnik refers to Diane Douglass as a “girl” and I question whether the reference is professional or appropriate. Donna Gratehouse then tries to dismiss my point because…I’m pro-life. Because pro life people apparently can’t complain when a reporter refers to the Superintendent of Public instruction as a “girl.”

This attempt to rebut my argument by attacking my character is classic ad hominem. Here’s the exchange.

Espresso Pundit tweet

I responded the way I did because Patterson’s outrage rang fake and hollow to me, as per usual with conservatives who get all kinds of pearl clutchy over sexism when one of their own women is insulted by a liberal or someone perceived to be but then go right back to working diligently to hurt all other women. Anti-choicers especially have no credibility in these situations.

The two fallacies mansplainers go to the most to try and shut down critics are the straw man and the ad hominem, most likely because there’s more ambiguity to exploit in them than with more formal fallacies. Patterson accuses me of committing a “classic ad hominem” fallacy (adding “classic” to it for a nice little pedantic flourish) incorrectly.

An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”[1]), short for argumentum ad hominem, means responding to arguments by attacking a person’s character, rather than to the content of their arguments. When used inappropriately, it is a fallacy in which a claim or argument is dismissed on the basis of some irrelevant fact or supposition about the author or the person being criticized.

An example of a fallacious ad hominem would be if I were to dismiss Mabel’s argument that vaccines should be mandatory on the basis of her being divorced. That fact about Mabel is irrelevant to what she is asserting about vaccination. The same cannot be said for my mockery of a “pro-life” person’s sudden indignation over what was, at most, unintentional sexism by Brahm Resnik toward Superintendent Douglas. Being anti-choice is not a neutral characteristic that has no bearing on one’s attitude toward women. We are talking about a movement that is not only dedicated to criminalizing abortion and severely limiting contraception access but that has a long and well-known history of misogyny.

Which is not to say that I’m claiming that Greg Patterson agrees with Rush Limbaugh that women who want insurance to cover their birth control are sluts who should send him sex tapes and that he’d like to see abortions have to be done via guns. Or with Todd Akin that there are “legitimate” rapes and ones that are not. Or with people who terrify women trying to enter clinics. Or that he thinks this is a great movie. If I were to claim those things simply on the basis of Patterson identifying as “pro-life” then I would be engaging in the fallacy known as “guilt by association”. (For what it’s worth, though, Patterson has given his full-throated support to bad anti-choice laws and politicians with awful views on women on many occasions over the years.)

Under the most charitable assumption of what informs Patterson’s “pro-life” beliefs – that it’s all about the precious unborn babies (which perhaps he imagines as floating about un-tethered to anything or anyone?) and that he bears no ill will toward women at all – what he wants passed into law reduces pregnant people to the legal status of subhuman incubators and leads to (mostly) poor women being prosecuted for abortion and bad pregnancy outcomes. Of course, like many anti-choicers, Patterson may insist that wanting to restrict abortion access is not anti-woman at all. But that would be a difference of opinion on the humanity and bodily autonomy of women between him and me, not of any kind of illogic on my part.

Mansplainers, learn what logical fallacies are and aren’t and stop embarrassing yourselves!

One response to “In which I explain how Espresso Pundit does not know what the Ad Hominem fallacy is

  1. [The following comment is made sincerely & in good faith]: But by calling them “mansplainers” (i.e., men who speak condescendingly to women who actually knows more than them) aren’t they by definition embarrassing themselves by pretending they know more than their females listeners? How will learning logical fallacies stop them from embarrassing themselves?